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A General Theory of Exploitation and Class


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About the Author

Roemer John E.

John Roemer is Elizabeth S. and A. Varick Stout Professor of Political Science and Economics, Yale University.


Roemer's is a major contribution to Marxian economic theory. It presents an analysis that is at once classical and modern, answering both old questions and new ones. It is delightfully controversial and deeply innovative.

There is no doubt that Roemer has produced an excellent book. His central question is whether classical Marxism has prepared us to expect what we see in existing socialist countries. Roemer believes not, and 'the consequence is a theoretical disarray of modern Marxism in attempting to explain the laws of motion of socialism.' The book is divided into three parts that deal respectively with exploitation and class in subsistence economies, accumulating economies, and socialist economies. Building on elegant and beautifully precise models of exploitation and class, the author integrates notions of class and status, socialist exploitation, and notions of justice to analyze the abstract workings of socialism...Highly recommended.A landmark in the development of economic theory...[This book] takes a long, hard look at some classical concepts in Marxism and, in doing so, transforms them completely...[Roemer] uses the analytical tools of neo-classical economics to undermine its normative and sociological assumptions. Instead of firms and households, Roemer offers us classes; instead of the social welfare function' he proposes exploitation as the criterion of justice. His book, in my opinion, is a step towards realism without loss of vigour.

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